A lasting couple

Making their way to Israel this weekend, Chick Corea and Gary Burton are a tried and tested musical pair who have yet to tire of each other

burton corea 88 298 (photo credit: Courtesy )
burton corea 88 298
(photo credit: Courtesy )
They say you can't go back. On the other hand, pianist Chick Corea and vibraphonist Gary Burton are living proof of an equally tried and tested adage: if it ain't broke don't fix it. Corea and Burton have been plying their fusion jazz around the world, on and off, for around 35 years. And this Saturday they will be back, playing the the Ra'anana Amphitheater at 8 p.m. In an artistic discipline not typically noted for enduring projects, a confluence spanning three and a half decades - albeit intermittently - is quite something. So, what do Corea and Burton know that the rest of us don't? "We often discuss why it's lasted so long," says Burton. "In a way it's like a marriage, although we don't do this the whole time. Maybe that's why we have survived intact, because we're not together the whole time. I'd tell couples that too much togetherness can get hard to handle. As musicians we're used to being separated from our families. Some would say that's bad, and some would say it works the other way." Evidently, that works for Burton and Corea. Over the last 40 or so years they have both enjoyed illustrious careers. Corea first came to notice in the fusion bands of Miles Davis of the late Sixties, thereafter heading his own fusion ensembles with great success. Burton has also done well for himself since debuting with a band led by pianist George Shearing in 1963. In fact, Corea and Burton first teamed up professionally at the Munich Olympics in 1972. "There was an impromptu jam session after a jazz festival arranged as part of the games," Burton recalls. "It was before the games actually started and before the terrible events with the Israeli athletes. Chick and I were the only ones who turned up. So we jammed together for a while. It seemed to go quite well." As luck would have it, Manfred Eicher was in the audience that evening, and he also thought it "went well". Eicher had recently established the German based ECM record label and was so impressed with the duo that he offered them a record deal. "I thought he was joking," says Burton. "I mean, who wants to hear a piano and vibraphone duo?" Thirty-five years after Corea and Burton's ECM debut release, Crystal Silence, it seems that many do. In the interim, Corea and Burton have put out five duet albums and performed to packed houses across the globe. Their forthcoming Ra'anana gig is the penultimate show of an 11 month world tour incorporating over 60 concerts. This is certainly not going to be some kind of dress rehearsal. "Chick and I know each other pretty well by now," Burton observes. "There's a certain comfort zone between us by now." That's not to say the sexagenarians are getting even the least bit sedentary. In between their shows and other commitments they are putting together a sixth album, which will be out sometime in the fall. "We do stuff from our past, but we're always looking to new material too," says Burton. The vibraphonist doesn't always play with people his own age. After teaching, and eventually heading, the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston for over 30 years, he put out a couple of albums with a sideman around half his age. "That was by design. I enjoy playing with younger musicians more than the older guys," he explains. "I find them more flexible, more adaptable, more inspiring - they hit me with new things - and the younger the better. When I formed a band [after Berklee] I hired a 15-year-old guitar player, two 20-year-old guys and one 25-year-old. It was such a thrill to go to work each night because these guys were so excited about every show. That rubbed off on me too." Despite their years, Corea and Burton continue to keep each other on their toes. "We're still happy to play together, and enjoy ourselves. We never thought this would go on for so long, but I'm glad it has." Gary Burton and Chick Corea will play at the Ra'anana Amphitheater on July 28 at 8 p.m. For ticket information call: 03-604-5000